old Prague postcards

Old postcards of Prague   Prague Through the Centuries


Motto: History is always derived from written records

Prague is not only the capital but also the biggest and most important city in the Czech Republic. It is situated in the centre of Bohemia and also, it can be said, of Europe. It stands at 50°05’ N and 14°30’ E in the rugged territory of the Prague basin, which is penetrated by adjacent spurs of the Central Bohemian Hills. For instance, the highest point of Petřín Hill, near the look-out tower, is about 326 m above sea level. The Hradčany headland, where Prague Castle stands, is around 250 m above sea level, while the level of the Vltava River near the Charles Bridge is about 182 m above sea level.

Few of the world’s cities are as tightly tied to the history of their nations and countries as is Prague, and it is believed, despite the paucity of historic reports, that this situation has persisted from the beginning of its existence right up to the present day. The majority of the most important events, including revolutionary upheavals, which influenced the course of history of the whole country, took place in Prague. This is true in every sense but most of all in regard to political and cultural matters. Prague has always inspired writers, poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, architects, graphic artists, photographers, film producers, etc., to produce works, many of which rank among the peaks of Czech, European, and even world, culture.

Archaeological discoveries have established the presence of people in the Prague basin a million years ago. The oldest settlements, however, were not permanent; people at that time followed the nomadic life-style of hunting tribes and, in some periods, they were displaced by the excessively severe climate. From the later Stone Age, the Prague area was settled continuously and it was often the focus of primaeval development in Bohemia. At the beginning of this period, a fundamental change occurred; new colonists appeared, who had already developed skill in agriculture. They veered away from the practices of the hunters and gatherers of the previous periods, and opened up an entirely new epoch, lasting essentially up to the present day. Many ethnic groups with different cultures inhabited the Prague basin, coming from both East and West. It is therefore understandable that the process of migration was often accompanied by bloody battles, followed by the changing, merging or displacement of cultures.

In the new era, Bohemia and Prague basin became a target for trade from the Roman Empire. Around the middle of the 6th century, Slavs appeared in the Prague basin and after the movements of ethnic groups in the period of the so-called Migration of Peoples, they established themselves as the permanent inhabitants. From the 7th century to the 9th century, the key positions in the prevailingly agricultural settlement in Prague basin and its environs were high fortified castle sites, such as Šárka, Zámka, Podhoří, and Butovice. From these sites and the dispersed settlements, paths and tracks led to the fords and banks of the Vltava.

The settlement of the existing historic parts of Prague originally concentrated close to the embankments of the Vltava, especially in the neighbourhood of old tracks, fords and localities, especially on the left bank, which afforded some protection against frequent floods. Such a relatively safe locality was the area around the present Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí), which is situated on a geological terrace, called by the ancient Slavs prag or prah (i.e. threshold). From here, evidently, comes the modern name of the city.

In the course of time, a Slavic tribe, the Czechs, seems to have settled and controlled Prague basin and neighbourhood, primarily the area to the West of the Vltava. In this enclave was also situated Levý Hradec (at present, part of Roztoky, to the north of Prague) - the seat of the Czech tribal duke, who derived his origin from the legendary Přemysl. The baptism of the first historic Czech duke, Bořivoj the First,(about 855-889) in Great Moravia (together with economic and social developments) led, in the 9th and 10th centuries, to the union of tribes settled in the Bohemian area; thus there was a reorganisation of the settlement structure in Prague basin region which resulted in the formation of a feudal state. As a consequence of the foundation of Prague Castle (around 885) as the main seat of the Přemyslid dukes and the establishment of Vyšehrad (in the first half of the 10th century), the centre of habitation shifted into neighbouring new localities and grew.

An Arabic-Jewish merchant, Ibrahim ibn Jakub, who visited Prague in the middle of the 10th century, wrote: the town Fraga is built of stone and lime... in the town Braga, saddles, bridles and strong shields are made, which are used in their lands (Arabic does not have the sound ‘p’, so Ibrahim uses F and B indiscriminately). This probably relates to the then densest settlement around the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) marketplace with its stone rotunda of St Wenceslas and stone chimneys of home fireplaces. Otherwise, the housing was certainly predominantly of wood, but the walls of timber chalets could, at that time, already have been painted with lime, as can be seen even today (for sanitary reasons, against wood pests, light reflection in summer, etc.). No less interesting is the conclusion of Ibrahim’s report on Prague: ...and from the forest, it is about two miles through a swamp to a wooden bridge, and from the forest end and over the bridge we come to the town of Braga. It follows from this that Prague had a wooden bridge, apparently in the locality of the present Mánes Bridge or Charles Bridge. The mention of the swamp could relate to the flood area, probably on the right bank of the Vltava. Czech silver denarii, which were used as currency until 1300, were already coined in Prague Castle at the time of Ibrahim’s visit.

The development and influence of Christianity was enhanced in the early Czech state by the establishment of the Prague Bishopric (about 973) as a consequence of the diplomatic initiative of Duke Boleslav (apparently already the Second), under whose rule the permanent union of the Czech lands was forged. This was achieved in the then customary way of the time, i.e., by the slaughter of the most mighty competitor of the Přemyslids, the clan Slavník at Libice near Poděbrady (995). The ever-increasing political significance of the Přemyslids from the middle of the 11th century necessitated the rebuilding of the Prague settlement to an ever-stronger mediaeval castle, strategically complemented by Vyšehrad on the right bank of the Vltava.

Most probably in the course of the second half of the 11th century, the centre of economic life started to shift from the area around the Castle (on the left bank of the Vltava) to the opposite side. At the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, the chronicler Cosmas wrote about flourishing settlements around Prague Castle and Vyšehrad, and about the existence of enclaves of German, Jewish, and Mediterranean merchants in the Prague area. Around the year 1100, a large marketplace on the right bank of the Vltava, in the locality of the present Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), is documented for the first time. Just here a fortified small court was set up for the Czech duke; in the course of time it became a customshouse and a place where foreign merchants found refuge (the area now known as Týn and Ungelt). Then, during the 12th century, a compact development of small romanesque stone courts, houses, churches and monasteries grew in the neighbourhood. The connection between Prague Castle and the marketplace near the Týn was secured, from 1172, by the stone Judith Bridge, built several meters to the north of the present Charles Bridge.

Satisfactorily developing domestic and artisans’ trades were supplemented by agriculture in the settlements near both the banks of the river. On the left bank, these settlements were, for instance, the villages Obora, Nebovidy and Rybáře (in the locality of the present Klárov). On the right bank, there were, for example, the settlements Rybník, Újezd sv. Martina, Opatovice, Podskalí and Zderaz. Some of these villages are still commemorated today in the names of Prague streets. Small simple church buildings were also established here. Thus, in the period from the end of the 9th to the end of the 12th century, an agglomeration of more or less dispersed settlements formed between Prague Castle and Vyšehrad; its extent was such that it ranked among the most important in Central Europe. Initially, it was called Mezigrady (Mezihrady, i.e. between castles) and later Prague.

From 1198, the Czech principality permanently became a kingdom. The hereditary character of the royal title was confirmed by the Golden Bull of Sicily (1212). This promotion also contributed to the acceleration of the development of communities around Prague Castle on the left bank and more particularly on the right bank of the Vltava. Around the Old Town marketplace and its neighbourhood, the process of town development reached its peak; the inhabitants of the hitherto independent dispersed settlements around Prague Castle became subjects of the borough (burghers) and gained urban privileges and prerogatives from the sovereign. An external manifestation of the change was the building of a wall which, after 1230, enclosed the broad area around the marketplace, including the housing around the St Gall (Havel in Czech) Church, which had mainly been inhabited by immigrants from Germany. The Havel Town merged together with the Old Town before the end of the 13th century. On the opposite side of the Vltava, in the disestablished old settlement, the King (Přemysl Otakar the Second) founded a New Town below Prague Castle (later Lesser Town) in 1257, and had a wall built around it. At that time, in Bohemia and elsewhere in Europe, the fashion for romanesque architecture was in decline; half a century later, the reign of the first Czech royal dynasty (the Přemyslids) also concluded, as a result of the murder of King Václav the Third in Olomouc (1306).

The peak of prosperity of Prague boroughs, the building of which proceeded in the spirit of the new Gothic style, arrived under the rule of Emperor Charles the Fourth (1346-1378). This sovereign made Bohemia the centre of the Holy Roman Empire, and Prague its royal seat. On the right bank of the Vltava, he founded (1348) and built the New Town, a district conceived in the then modern way, which encircled the Old Town in a broad swathe. He founded the Charles University (1348), the oldest university in Central Europe, and initiated the establishment of the Prague Archbishopric. He built the stone bridge (Charles Bridge), commissioned the erection of St Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle area, and enclosed parts of the city on the left bank of the Vltava into a fortification - Hradčany and the Lesser Town (Malá strana). Under Charles the Fourth, Prague became the largest and richest town in Central Europe. The Prague agglomeration was then one vast building site but,at the same time, also the centre of the most progressive trends in all categories of art. The predominant part of Charles’ monumental design was completed under the rule of Wenceslas the Fourth (1378-1419), except for St Vitus Cathedral, which remained but a fragment for five centuries, as a reminder of the imperial preeminence of Prague.

Alongside the unprecedented town planning and architectural development of the city, the first serious social antagonisms began to appear. This, together with a long-term crisis in the Catholic Church, first of all in morality (the Papal Schism, the private lives of priests and others) led, after Charles’ death, to the formation of a gradually deepening social crisis and to a reform movement, the leading representative of which was Master Jan Hus (John Hus - ca. 1371-1415). The crisis came to a head after Hus was burnt to death at the stake in Constance (6th July 1415), after Master Jeronym of Prague had suffered a similar fate, and it was a prelude - as a consequence of the short-sighted policy of the Council of Constance and the Papal Court in the following years - to revolution. The impulse was the first Prague defenestration, which occurred after an attack against the New Town Hall by the Prague urban poor (1419). They were led by a radical priest, Jan Želivský, and later, by Jan Žižka of Trocnov (ca. 1360-1424), a professional warrior, who never learned the bitter experience of military defeat in battle. After the death of Václav the Fourth, nothing could stop the course of revolutionary events. Hussites in Prague eliminated the power of the Church and that of the rigorous Catholic patricians, in particular the Germans, and successfully resisted the Crusade led by the Emperor Sigismund (1420) to become a decisive power factor in the country. Apparently, it was at that time that the Latin device Praga caput regni (Prague, head of the kingdom) originated; it is carved above a Renaissance window in the present wedding room in the Old Town Hall. However, after murdering Jan Želivský (1422) and suppressing the poor, the Prague Hussite middle classes abandoned the revolution, as had the predominant part of the Czech nobility, and thus contributed to the eventual defeat of the movement (1434). As a reward, they kept their acquired possessions and their privileged political position at the head of the city estate.

The religiously - and socially - motivated Hussite revolution (1419-1434), combined with crusading invasions and later Hussite raids abroad, understandably brought no benefit either to Prague or to the country as a whole. The conflict stopped all building activity for a long time. Of the Lesser Town, the greater part of Hradčany, and Vyšehrad, only ruins remained; many monasteries, churches and houses were plundered - the damage could not be expressed in figures. The fate of Vyšehrad, which has never recovered from the disaster, almost overcame Prague Castle as well.

The reconstruction of the destroyed city only began under the rule of King Jiří of Poděbrady (1458-1471) and it continued under the rule of King Vladislav the Second, Jagiello (1471-1516), when even luxurious buildings were constructed. The most significant were the Powder Tower (Prašná brána), the Vladislav Hall, and the rebuilt reception and utility rooms for the sovereign and his court in Prague Castle, which Vladislav the Second was able to occupy at the end of the 15th century. He moved from the Old Town King’s Court in the locality of the present Municipal House (Obecní dům), which had been the seat of his predecessors, beginning with occasional visits by Václav the Fourth. From here, the coronation processions of Czech Kings used to enter the area of the Old Town (Staré Město) through the Powder Tower; they continued through Celetná Street to the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), then through Charles (Karlova) Street to Charles Bridge (Karlův most) and via the Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí) and present Nerudova Street to Prague Castle. This triumphal route, the only such route in Europe, which hosts of tourists enjoy today, is rightly called the Royal Route.

The privileged position of the middle classes and the dominant role of Prague were shattered by the accession of the Habsburgs to the Czech throne (1526). The inhabitants of Prague were involved in an unsuccessful uprising of the estates against the emperor Ferdinand the First, so Prague lost most of its property and freedoms, and most of all its political independence and prestige. Before that, in 1541, the biggest fire in its history devastated the town, consuming the predominant part of the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Hradčany. At that time, irreplaceable state records, the foundation stone of private and public law in the country, were burnt in Prague Castle. In contrast to this decline and disaster, Prague experienced a period of intense renaissance rebuilding and superficial prosperity in the second half of the 16th century. Many lovely houses and aristocratic palaces, decorated with gables, loggias, sgraffiti, and other features, appeared. In Prague Castle, a garden area was developed, including the renowned typical Renaissance-style King’s Summer House. So the new style of architecture grew side by side with the city’s original Gothic ground plan and character. The significance of Prague was again considerably increased by Emperor Rudolf the Second (ruled 1576-1611), who in 1584 definitively relocated his court to Prague Castle and, for the second time, made the town the focal point of the Holy Roman Empire. His court was a meeting place of artists, scholars (and also charlatans) from all over Europe. He loved art, and believed in astrology and alchemy; he was a passionate collector of antiques and of all kinds of rarities. During his life, he amassed a unique world collection of art objects of immense value in Prague Castle. Though Rudolf took less and less interest in ruling, and succumbed to severe depressions, his influence on the character of the time was unmistakeable. He stimulated artistic interests in aristocrats and rich burghers, who invited notable Italian artists - representatives of the Italian Renaissance, who were successfully competing with Protestant German and Dutch influences. No wonder that this period is today called Rudolfinian.

A definitive full stop to the Rudolfinian chapter was made by the insurrection of the Czech Estates against the Habsburgs in the years 1618-1620; it began with the second Prague defenestration, when the Imperial governors and a scribe were thrown out of the windows of Prague Castle. The Czech insurrection became the first phase of the European Thirty Years’ War, which brought mercenary service to full prosperity. Unfortunately, once again, Bohemia and Moravia became the most frequently disputed theatre of war. Though the Prague boroughs, predominantly Utraquist, played only a passive role in the insurrection, they were afflicted by extensive confiscations, fines and re-Catholization to an extraordinary extent after the defeat at White Mountain (Bílá hora) near Prague(November 8th, 1620). This entailed forced emigration for non-Catholics, and considerable social and political decline for the Prague middle classes in general. In the years 1631 and 1632, the city was occupied by Saxon troops; a heavy plague raged here in 1639 and, at the very end of the war in 1648, Swedes tried to conquer Prague, managing to plunder the Lesser Town and Hradčany extensively, and to take away a predominant part of Rudolf’s collections from Prague Castle. Moving the Imperial court and all the important authorities to Vienna then demoted Prague to the status of a stagnant provincial town, the number of inhabitants of which decreased, when compared with the year 1620, by more than half (from 60 to 26 thousand). In spite of these great losses, a remarkable level of building activity was beginning; especially after the great fire in the Old Town (1689), it reshaped the city, hitherto mediaeval in character despite all the changes, to a style prevailingly Baroque. The city has retained the shape of Prague Baroque essentially up to the present day. The city seemed to sense that this architectural style is the most appropriate for it, because of the rugged terrain. In this period, new development was in progress close to the mediaeval city walls: new walls were being built with sizeable bastions; palaces for the nobility (especially war profiteers and immigrants) arose; and numerous churches, monasteries, houses, and also fenced summer estates were being erected. The form and special character of the city were completed by Baroque gardens, the loveliest of which were built on the slopes of Petřín Hill and below the southern walls of the Castle. The Baroque style was introduced during the Thirty Years’ War with the building of the Waldstein Palace, and it culminated one hundred and fifty years later. Initially, mostly foreign master-builders and artists were engaged but, starting from the second half of the 18th century, when Prague Baroque became a byword and reached world class, outstanding domestic master-builders and artists of all kinds (e.g. the families of Dientzenhofer, Braun, Brokoff and others) were also commissioned.

In the 18th century, Prague saw a series of dramatic events, especially in connection with the war of Austrian inheritance after the accession of Maria Theresa to the throne. For instance, occupation by the French, Bavarians and Saxons (in the years 1741-1742) and conquest by troops of the Prussian King, Friedrich the Second (1744). Also, the Seven Years’ War with Prussia entailed distress for the city dwellers. In contrast, in more quiet times, Prague became famous for an admirably cultured social and, in particular, musical life (for instance, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, among others).

By the Imperial decree of Josef the Second on February 12th, 1784, the city’s historical boroughs - Hradčany, Lesser Town, Old Town, and New Town - were united in one entity, Prague, the capital of the Czech kingdom (with ca. 76,000 inhabitants). In 1850, the Jewish ghetto, Josefov, was annexed to Prague. In the second half of the 19th century, the boroughs named above were denoted, in the order given, by Roman numerals - Prague I to V. In the framework of some over-hasty and not properly considered Josefinian reforms, some churches and monaseries were dissolved and destroyed. On the other hand, the atmosphere of the Period of Enlightenment in the Josefinian era facilitated the development of cultural life as a platform for the first manifestation of Czech national emancipation, i.e. the start of revivalist theatre, active journalism and publishing, etc., all in the Czech language. At that time, many small manufacturing workshops arose. In the 1780s, the strongest branch of these work-shops in Prague was in the textile industry. In 1791, on the occasion of the Coronation of Leopold the Second as the Czech King, the first exhibition of industrial products on the continent took place.

In architecture, from the third quarter of the 18th century, Prague was changing and expanding with new Neo-Classical, Empire, and romantic buildings and with reconstructions of others. Because Neo-classicism expressed the rationality of Josefinian reforms, urban tenement houses, schools, hospitals and other buildings were built in this style. The building regulations of the year 1780 were determining, for instance, such significant features as the width of streets, the maximum permitted height of buildings, the design of roofs, etc.

With the development of manufacturing and, ultimately, industrial production, the number of inhabitants began to rise in such a way that the enclosed area of the city, unchanged since the time of Charles the Fourth, ceased to satisfy the requirements of the time, especially after the Napoleonic Wars. Factories could no longer be built inside the city walls, nor was it possible to increase the density of population in the Baroque Prague fortress. For this reason, adjacent to the Prague fortifications, the first industrial suburbs (Karlín, Smíchov, Holešovice, Libeň) originated from the beginning of the 19th century. Textile production, predominantly the printing of cotton, still dominated Prague industry but, from the 1830s, mechanical engineering started to develop as a new branch. The requirements of industry enforced the setting-up of both inner municipal transport and outer connections from Prague. This was understood well by the Governor of the Czech Kingdom, Count Chotek (in office 1826-1843), whose period of activity constituted a significant era in the development of Prague. The chain Bridge of Emperor Franz was built in the place of the present Bridge of Legions, the embankment with the monument of the same Emperor (today Smetana Embankment), the twisting road (Chotkova) from Klárov to the Bruská Gate (opposite the summer house Belvedere), and many other projects were accomplished. For instance, a port was built in Karlín and, in 1841, steam navigation started on the Vltava. To connect Prague with the provinces and the rest of Europe, a station for the state railway steam trains was built inside the city walls in Hybernská Street in the 1840s. For several rail routes, tunnels (with massive doors which were closed at night) were made in the city fortifications.

As early as 1827, the number of inhabitants of the historical core of Prague exceeded 100,000, and the suburbs were also densely populated. Population growth strengthened the Czech component among the inhabitants, especially in the suburbs, whereas in the historical core of the city, the number of German inhabitants stagnated from the 1830s. Under these circumstances, social antagonisms often merged with national antipathy. The historical core was still surrounded by the city walls, the New Town segment of which was later partly arranged as a park with the moats filled in places. In 1816-1830, the Prague sewage system was built and the contemporary tenement houses started to find their place more and more. In the 1840s, when Prague became the centre of the Czech national movement, it also witnessed a series of workers’ strikes. The global political situation in 1848 finally resulted in the Prague revolutionary uprising. Its defeat failed to reverse the movement and to curb the advancing industrial revolution, which went on to transform Prague into a fastgrowing city. The Czech middle classes, who defeated the Prague Germans with considerable superiority in the elections in 1861, and permanently dominated the municipal administration, quickly modernized their city according to the pattern of West European capitals.

The second half of the 19th century, when the growing industry substantially changed the structure of the Prague agglomeration, was marked by the Prussian occupation of 1866. A dramatic change in the appearance of the city was the subsequent demolition of a substantial part of the redundant city walls. This accelerated the integration process in the economic, political and cultural fields between Prague and its suburban districts, which were successively promoted to the status of boroughs. However, administrative annexation of most of these districts was not enforced be cause of their narrow local interests. The territory of Prague grew only by the incorporation of Vyšehrad (1883), Holešovice-Bubny

The period of late romanticism and Art Nouveau, from the second half of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century - in parallel with numerous technical constructions, e.g. the railway network from the years 1851-1875, horse-drawn (later electric) tramways, the bridges over the Vltava, and the introduction of electrification - enriched the city with a series of valuable monumental buildings, squares, streets and parks, for instance, the National Theatre, the National Museum, the Rudolfinum, the Municipal House, the New Town Hall, Komenský Square, Mikulášská Street, and the Municipal Park in front of the Franz Josef the First station. At that time, however, architectural purism became fashionable, resulting from studies of the mediaeval styles and their imitations, but strict adherence to principles brought more harm than good - for instance, the irresponsible reconstruction of the Powder Tower, the St Peter and Paul Church at Vyšehrad, and also the completion of St Vitus Cathedral.

The Sokol Rallies (from 1882), the country’s Jubilee Exhibition (1891), and the Ethnographic Exhibition (1895) formed part of the rich social life enjoyed by the middle classes in the late 19th century. By the division of the university into Czech and German components (1882) and by the foundation of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts (1890), new centres of Czech scientific and cultural life prospered alongside older institutions (The Royal Czech Society of Sciences and the National Museum). On the other hand, parts of the historical Old and New Towns, and almost the whole Jewish Ghetto, were the victims of clearance after 1893. However, redevelopment, preceded by the building of the embankment, was not entirely unjustified. It was associated with a comprehensive town-planning concept, with new sanitary requirements but also with ruthless entrepreneurial intentions. Proposals for a total redevelopment of Prague existed but, fortunately, (especially thanks to the Club for Old Prague) they were not realized. In the urban area, besides noble Neo-Renaissance houses and buildings in the Czech Art Nouveau and Cubist styles, whole districts of ugly commercial tenement houses unfortunately grew up.

After the First World War (1914-1918) and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prague became the capital of the newly-formed state of Czechoslovakia (28th October, 1918), the seat of the President of the republic, the Parliament, and the Government. One of the unpropitious legacies of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was the territorial and administrative division of the Prague conurbation. The intense growth of industrial production, contingent on the development of new branches of industry (automotive, aircraft and electrotechnical), and the continuous urbanization of neighbouring districts and villages necessitated extensive territorial reorganization. In 1922, 37 neighbouring villages were incorporated with the hitherto eight Prague boroughs. In this way, Greater Prague was formed with 19 boroughs and 676,000 inhabitants; this number rose to one million by the Second World War. The numbering of the newly annexed parts with Roman numerals logically followed the previous numbering (Prague IX to XIX).

After the Second World War, the division of Prague boroughs was adjusted several times for the purpose of public administration. Further neighbouring villages were incorporated, and the city subdivisions were then denoted by Arabic numerals. This insensitive approach to the unification of Prague culminated in an administrative reorganization in 1960, which reduced the number of boroughs to ten with new boundaries recorded in the land registry; this even affected the historic parts of the city. In almost every case, fragments, formerly parts of other neighbourhoods or boroughs, became incorporated; for instance, Prague 2 came to comprise the southern part of the New Town, Vyšehrad, part of Nusle, and the Western part of Vinohrady. Prague has been fighting with this bizarre, andrather arbitrary, division ever since.

The oldest graphic depiction of Prague is a xylograph in the schedel Chronicle, published in Nuremberg in 1493; some experts assign the work to the young Albrecht Dürer. Filip van den Bossche, Václav Hollar (1607-1677), Vincenc Morstadt (1802-1875), Samuel Prout and others rank among further well-known artists recording the appearance of old Prague.

An artistic work of extraordinary significance is the fascinating three-dimensional model of Prague by Antonín Langweil (1791-1837), exhibited at present in the Prague City Museum. With an area of 5.76 x 3.34 m, it represents the Old Town, Lesser Town and a greater part of Hradčany in the early 19th century, accurately and to scale. Langweil worked on the model in the years 1826-1834 using drawing on wood or lithographically printed paper, cut and dyed wool, wires, and even ivory. As a model for the ground plan, he used the map of Prague made by Josef Jüttner in 1811-1815. Incidentally, Langweil opened the first Prague lithographic workshop in 1819 but soon sold it to a more competent businessman.

The oldest preserved photographs of historic Prague come from the early 1850s. The most significant photographers of Prague in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century were Andreas Groll, Vilém Rupp, František Fridrich, Jindřich Eckert, Karel Bellmann, Jan Maloch, Jan Mulač, Rudolf Bruner-Dvořák, and others.

Painters also existed who specialised in Prague themes; Václav Jansa (1859- 1913) and Jan Minařík (1862-1937), at least, should be mentioned. Their works, besides expressing the atmosphere of the place, have at least the same expressive value as contemporary black-and-white (and also coloured) photographs.

The oldest film shots of Prague were made in 1911 by Jan Kříženecký, the pioneer of Czech cinematography. They show the Staroměstské Square, Václavské Square, the chain foot-bridge near the Rudolfinum, and further localities, the appearance of which we often know only from photographs and picture cards. The first colour film of Prague was shot in 1934. However, its colour range is limited; green, for instance, is entirely missing. The second attempt, accomplished by an American (James Fitzpatick) in 1938, is much closer to the quality of modern colour film.

The characteristic attributes golden, hundred-spired were applied to Prague by the German writer and historian, Josef Hormayer, at the beginning of the 19th century. Allegedly, in order to check Hormayer’s statement, a famous Czech philosopher and mathematician, Bernard Bolzano, (1781-1848) counted the Prague spires for the first time. He actually counted 103 of them. But it is quite possible that the sequence was reversed: first Bolzano counted the spires and then Hormayer wrote the poetry.

XXXI - A view of hundred-spired Prague from about 1800 from the hills of Královské Vinohrady according to an old engraving

XXXI - A view of hundred-spired Prague from about 1800 from the hills of Královské Vinohrady according to an old engraving

On the right Špitálská Gate (Spital Gate) called also Poříčská stood in the Baroque walls of the New Town (above this Gate there were spires of the Church of St Peter and the monumental water tower in Klimentská Street) which led to Karlín; in the foreground Nová Gate (New Gate) called also Horská (Mountain Gate, above this Gate there was the Church of St Henry) which led to Vídeňská Street; in the left-hand corner Koňská Gate (Horse Gate) with the street to Černý Kostelec; behind the bastion Žitná Gate (Rye Gate). In the panoramic view relations between the gates and towers in the background are considerably distorted. No doubt the engraver made a mistake because in reality there were alwais two bastions between the above gates.


Coat of Arms – Prague, Head of the Kingdom

Coat of Arms – Prague, Head of the Kingdom

Crest of the Prague Old Town, which has been the seat of the Prague City Hall since 1649, was chosen as the crest of the unified Prague. This crest changed later only slightly and was valid until 1918. In the middle of the crest there is a red shield. In the bottom part of it, we can see a gold castle wall having a silver battlement and an open gate with a pulled out golden grid. A silver armed hand holding a silver sward is seen in the gate. In the upper part of the crest, there are three golden towers from blocks. The towers have windows and end with a golden battlement and roofs.

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